The Vancouver Canucks were never the favourites in their series against the defending champions. Popular opinion was that the playoff appearance would just be a learning experience for their young core, and something to build on for the future. Many expected the Canucks to struggle against the Blues skill and experience, but they absolutely blew those low expectations out of the water. The Vancouver Canucks vs St. Louis Blues series showed some surprises.
On the backs of some huge performances by the usual (and unusual) suspects, they played their way into the second round while the St. Louis Blues prepare for their flight out of Edmonton.
And with the entertaining series came some interesting storylines, which we’ll dig into right now.
Jordan Binnington‘s Struggles
The sophomore slump could not have come at a worse time for the St. Louis Blues. Better time, if you’re the Canucks.
Jordan Binnington had another eye-popping playoff performance, but this time for the opposite reasons. After a marvelous rookie season and a solid sophomore year, he was expected to provide a steady presence in the St. Louis Blues net. However, that could not have been any further from reality.
In three appearances in the first round, it didn’t even look like Binnington belonged in the NHL. The Canucks shooters repeatedly exploited his weakness, with eight of their 13 goals on him being on the blocker side. Bo Horvat even went as far to say this on his five-hole Game 2 overtime winner; “I think he got used to me going low blocker.”
To say Binnington’s numbers in the series were awful would be putting it mildly, with a .800 save percentage and 5.21 goals-against-average. Both those numbers are the third worst of any goalie to make an appearance in the first round, only to Antti Raanta and David Rittich. The difference however, is that Raanta and Rittich only played 40:00 and 16:35 and faced 14 and nine total shots, respectively. Binnington’s numbers weren’t inflated (or deflated) due to one poor outing. It was the culmination of back-to-back-to-back inexcusable performances.
Starting Binnington over the hot hand in Jake Allen was a gamble, and one they lost. With their pedigree, skill, and experience, all the St. Louis Blues needed was for Binnington to be average, and he wasn’t up to the task.
Elias Pettersson Leads Canucks to the Second Round
On the other end of the spectrum was the man that beat out Binnington for the Calder Trophy, Elias Pettersson.
After scoring four points in four qualifying round games, Pettersson was on fire entering round one of the playoffs. He certainly showed no signs of slowing down, as he scored a beautiful goal in Game 1. In fact, he only continued to pick up momentum, scoring nine points in six games en route to eliminating the Blues.
This, with an incredible four multi-point outings, only being held pointless in Game 4. His 13 postseason points tie him for first in the league with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, albeit in two more games played. Pettersson’s also done a good job of posting positive possession metrics throughout the first two rounds. His even strength Corsi currently sits at 54.0 percent and Fenwick at 51.3 percent.
With that being said, his success in the NHL playoffs shouldn’t come as a surprise. Pettersson’s no stranger to playoff success. He’s got a history of kicking his game up a notch in the postseason. As a 19-year-old in the SHL, he led his Vaxjo Lakers to a championship with 19 points in 13 games. He was named the playoff MVP, the youngest player ever to receive the honour.
If Pettersson is able to sustain this high level of play, this bodes extremely well for the Canucks moving forward. He, along with the likes of J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes will be a tough challenge for the Vegas Golden Knights to contain. This opens things up for their secondary scoring options such as Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, and will give the Canucks a chance at putting up a real fight in the second round and possibly beyond.